5 Tips When Consulting Chinese Clients in the Product Design Business

Date: May 6, 2013 Categories: Design Comments: 4 Comments Share:

Here are 5 quick tips that I would like to share with you. Might be useful if you are new to consulting Chinese clients in the product design consulting business. Most of these can be applied for non Chinese clients as well of course, but I have put this in the context of China and based on my experience.

1) Start with a Good Design Brief: Put serious effort to help your client writing up a good design brief that includes all the design requirements and expectations.  Many Chinese clients have no experience working with design companies and have no idea how to write a proper design brief. Providing them a design brief template might be useful. This can also provide you the opportunity to discuss about a more wider or meaningful scope, to make the project more interesting. Always question your clients what their underlying reasons are to initiate a project. Does it all make sense? Figure out and show that you care what they really need.

2) Explain Your Design Process Carefully: Show your best case studies that clearly illustrate how you approach your creative process in order to provide the client a good idea of what they can expect. Most of your clients in China might not be familiar with the design process, especially if they are not designers themselves. And try to customize your case studies or presentations to adapt to the client’s industry. Some of them are able to see how their needs can be fulfilled (or not) throughout your presentation. Or better, explain how the design approach from one of your case studies can be applied in your client’s case.

3) Show Strong Leadership: Be prepared and act as a strong leader by guiding your client from the beginning to the end of the design process. Most of them really need a lot of help, even if they do not ask for it. I often deal will clients who are not very strong leaders themselves or are not capable to provide strong opinions on certain things. Be present, wise and be more direct (careful though) to push things forward in the right direction. Do not be afraid to do things that others might not do so easily. Get out of your comfort zone and at the end your client will appreciate it.

4) Communicate Pro Actively: You need to initiate or develop deep conversations or ask your client a lot of questions to understand them as much as possible. Find out their challenges or difficulties. For instance, I remember a situation when a client could not make a choice between different concepts, because they were afraid to make the wrong decision. In a long silent moment, I broke the silence by asking directly what bothers the client in this moment of making a decision. I started to explain that we can minimize the risk by creating a functional prototype to evaluate the concept better. I told them that we could step back if the prototype is not good enough. Actually, they had no experience developing prototypes and have no idea how meaningful it can be.

5) Allow Client Involvement: Involving the client during the design process as much as possible will lead to more success. Trust in China is relatively low. Frequent communication and reviews, in order to include their feedback, definitely help gaining trust in order for the client to accept the final outcome. Be careful though, that you are not letting them to design, but apply their input in a wise way. The whole trust issue is actually making the creative consultancy work very challenging and is perhaps the most biggest hurdle to innovate at a large scale in China. I have mentioned in another post that Chinese people are quite afraid to fail here, and trust is very much related to failure. How to make your client trust you that you will not fail? Or how to make your client trust you that some failure can be accepted?

I’d love to hear your stories or advises from your experience working with Chinese clients in the product design industry.


4 Responses to "5 Tips When Consulting Chinese Clients in the Product Design Business"

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  1. Johnc492

    May 27, 2014 at 5:47 am

    Nice read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing some research on that. And he actually bought me lunch as I found it for him smile Thus let me rephrase that Thanks for lunch! ddfcaegbdecd

  2. Betty Liu

    July 4, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    In any business partnership happens ..It always start with “Communication” and then lead to (Hopefully ) “Connection” .

    For most cases. “Communication ” has been accomplished but not always the “Connection”. This is especially true when it applies to cross-boarder and cross-culture business collaboration .

    I am happy Waikit highlight the background of the article — “China context”. I appreciate that you already have some very sharp eyes on ID Chinese people’ unspoken meaning ..In Communication field. We define “China” is a country belongs to ” high-context” communication approach..( Welcome to read more books about Chinese history and philosophy. and hop hopefully you will have more sense about why and how Chinese communicate this way )

    For my job , I am always keen on finding out the “common ground” so to establish the “connection ” through suitable and “audience mindset” communication .

    Good luck ,guys :)

  3. Waikit Chung

    May 8, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    Hello Markus, thank you for your kind response, which I really appreciate. I have just discovered your company’s blog after I got approached by Valda Bagaciovaite who is interested to submit articles for publication on China Design Hub. It is fantastic to see people like you writing about design in China in English, which is still rare. Keep in touch, cheers!

  4. Markus Wild

    May 8, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Hi Waikit, I frequently follow your great posts and enjoy your insights. What you are saying is absolutely true. Especially the third point: strong leadership is a big difference compared to our european business cases. We have some similar topics on our blog http://wilddesign.info where we also describe how to deal with projects and clients both in Europe and China. With the view of two cultures we are experiencing things that are very helpful also for our european side. The global design business is changing fast and it is necessary to keep track of all the influences and influencers. Keep on writing great posts and lets keep on working further in friendly competition.

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